Google has made Google Maps more personal and social.
In a recently published blog post, Google announced that users can save locations to personalized lists and share those lists with others through social networks, email, and messaging apps. For example, someone planning a trip to the SxSW festival in Austin might want to create an “Austin Night Life” and “Austin BBQ Joints” list and store Google Maps destinations ahead of their visit for easy access when exploring the city during the event. The lists could be stored offline if needed and shared with other friends attending SxSW to do some planning together.
Our take: this development underscores why it’s so important for businesses with brick-and-mortar locations to manage their location data and content effectively. Businesses that maintain accurate location data and compelling content will enjoy a multiplier effect when someone shares the business’s information with other users through social and messaging apps. But businesses that do a poor job managing their online identity will pay for their lack of attention many times over.
- Make sure you claim and optimize your Google listing via Google My Business.
- Ensure your location data is correct.
- Include quality photos that encourage people to visit your location. (Per Google, “Businesses with recent photos typically receive more clicks to their websites.”)
It’s also interesting to speculate what this development means to the future of Google Maps. I would not be surprised if Google eventually incorporates into its ranking algorithms information about businesses stored in personal lists as well as titles of personal lists, thus putting more power into the hands of users. It’s also not unreasonable for Google to use personal lists to suggest things to do and places to go, akin to a vacation suggestion via algorithm. Or, Google could repurpose list data for its Google destinations product. After all, we know two things with certainty about Google:
- Google wants to create an end-to-end experience that keeps users on Google.
- User data is king. Google is always looking for ways to put user data to work. And personal lists are a treasure trove of user preferences based on data.
Whatever happens down the road, brands can prepare themselves by getting the basics of local data and content management right. Contact us to discuss how we can help you.
In 2017, data amplifiers are exerting more influence over location marketing as local search and omnichannel discovery converge.
Data amplifiers consist of data aggregators (such as Neustar) and publishers (such as Google) that share a business’s location data across the digital world, where people conduct “near me” searches. It’s imperative that businesses with multiple locations share their location data with these amplifiers instead of taking the scattershot approach of directly managing their location data across tier-two directories. Due to their scale and reach, data amplifiers deliver more payback for a brand’s location marketing investment.
And data amplifiers are becoming even more important as consumers adopt more devices and channels to discover brands. As Google notes, about 60 percent of online consumers start shopping on one device but continue doing so on another. No business can possibly hope to keep up with omnichannel consumers — but the good news is that they don’t have because data amplifiers efficiently distribute brands’ location information no matter where consumers are searching for them.
My latest Search Engine Land column discusses in more detail who the data amplifiers are and why they are increasingly important in an omnichannel world. Check out my column, and contact us to discuss how we can help you succeed with location marketing.
The rise of the omnichannel consumer has challenged businesses with brick-and-mortar locations to provide a consistent experience across channels and devices. Consumers expect brands to be present with relevant content whether consumers are interacting with them on Snapchat, Facebook, or through a Google search — and that experience needs to be seamless from search to the in-store experience. In my recently published Search Engine Land column, “How Brands Can Win with Omnichannel Discovery,” I discuss how businesses can successfully engage with omnichannel consumers by combining location data with compelling content across channels and devices. Check it out, and contact us to discuss how SIM Partners can help you improve your location marketing with omnichannel consumers.
How was your Black Friday? I’ll bet your online sales were a bright spot, but your brick-and-mortar sales were a disappointment. Sources ranging from Business Insider to Mashable reported that retailers generated so much online revenue on Black Friday that the lines between Black Friday and Cyber Monday are rapidly blurring, and mobile purchases continue to climb. But in-store sales fell, as reported by Reuters. It’s understandable that retailers might want to double down on their online efforts, but the offline experience remains a huge part of Black Friday, and retailers can do quite a bit to make their brick-and-mortar experience relevant to Black Friday shoppers.
For instance, retailers have many opportunities to provide a better in-store experience that shoppers cannot get online so easily (or not at all), such as personal concierges and amenities such as complimentary food and drinks. And they need to promote those services by updating their content wherever shoppers conduct near-me searches for Black Friday deals.
But more importantly, retailers need to do a better job catering to the omnichannel shopper by making it easier for shoppers to browse online and shop in-store. Here’s what Business Insider has to say about the matter:
Legacies are increasingly at risk of losing out on holiday sales as the retail market moves online. Traditional retailers, like Macy’s, Walmart, etc., still rely on their physical store locations for much of their revenue, but store performance is struggling as consumers shift online. Looking ahead to next year, omnichannel fulfillment options like click and collect or ship-from-store can help these retailers maximize the use of their brick-and-mortar locations over the holidays, as consumers increasingly rely on digital devices to shop. Moreover, leveraging the physical store for flexible fulfillment options like click and collect can be a boon for these retailers over the holidays when potential weather disruptions could impact home delivery.
The only point I disagree with is the part about “Looking ahead to next year.” Retailers should be acting like omnichannel merchants this year. They should have been doing so last year. On our own blog, I commented recently on some of the ways retailers can better service the needs of omnichannel shoppers this holiday season and all-year round, in fact. At SIM Partners, we help businesses anticipate and respond to changes in location marketing brought about by shifts in consumer behavior such as the rise of the omnichannel shopper. Contact us to discuss how we can help you.
Black Friday once was an occasion for shoppers to line up in the dead of night to find bargains at big-box retailers. This ritual still happens, but with an important twist. Now shoppers are complementing their Black Friday offline experience by browsing and buying across a multitude of channels and devices, including desktops, mobile phones, tablets, and smart speakers.
Welcome to the omnichannel holiday shopping season.
According to a survey conducted by technology provider Signal, brick-and-mortar retailers can succeed this season by addressing the needs of omnichannel shoppers, with mobile being at the center of the experience. Retailers such as Kohl’s and Target are already responding to the omnichannel shopper by stepping up services such as click-and-collect purchasing that cater to omnichannel shoppers. Retailers can succeed with holiday shoppers by creating a seamless journey across channels.
According to Signal, the primary way holiday shoppers browse for gifts is on a desktop/laptop, but the most frequent way consumers purchase gifts is in-stores. Approximately 20 percent of consumers primarily browse via mobile devices (smartphones and tablets); 8 percent use smartphones; and 7 percent use tablets as their primary way to make holiday purchases.
A Signal press release states, “Consumers don’t think in channels, and neither should retailers. The survey findings show that people consistently shop across desktop, mobile, and in stores as it suits their needs. Consumers don’t want to make a choice between the convenience of buying from home and the assurance of handling the product in a store: they want both. By offering options like buy online/pickup in store, free shipping and easy returns, retailers can effectively serve consumers wherever they are shopping.”
Create Next Moments
The key to winning with the omnichannel holiday shopper is to create “next moments” of engagement across multiple channels and devices, which ultimately leading to a purchase in-store. A next moment is the action that a consumer takes after finding your brand through a search.
Next moments should capitalize on the unique attributes of each channel and device. For instance, in 2015, Target launched an omnichannel holiday campaign across platforms such as Facebook and Snapchat. The campaign capitalized on the unique attributes of each platform: playful geo-filters on Snapchat and e-commerce ads on Facebook. Because Facebook and Snapchat cater to different audiences in unique ways, a one-size-fits-all approach would not have worked. Instead, Target focused on creating brand awareness on Snapchat and product awareness on Facebook.
But Target went well beyond Facebook and Snapchat. The company also relied on TV (creating content with Disney to promote an airing of Mary Poppins) and in-store (e.g., its flagship stores were reimagined as physical Wonderlands).
Preparing for the omnichannel shopper also means ensuring that your brand is findable through the different ways people research and shop across channels. As we noted on a recent blog post, shoppers who browse for products on mobile devices are increasingly relying on voice-activated searches to find what they need, especially while they are on the go. Merchants should optimize the content on their location pages with more complicated, descriptive searches in mind. (e.g., “Where can I find Sky Viper Streaming Drones and get free gift-wrapping, too?”)
Click and Collect
In 2016, Target is among the retailers beefing up their ability to cater to shoppers who want to buy a product online and collect it in stores. The company is adding more counters to fulfill click-and-collect orders and intends to open “flex-format” stores that act as collection points for click-and-collect orders.
The focus on click-and-collect makes sense. According to the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), 85 percent of holiday shoppers are researching online before making holiday purchases in store, and 39 percent are taking advantage of click-and-collect services (an increase from 32 percent who did so in 2015). In addition, 83 percent of shoppers picking up online purchases in stores said they would make additional purchases at the location when picking up their digital order.
In some ways, holiday shopping has not changed. Many consumers still devote considerable time and energy shopping on Black Friday as they always have. Traditions such as visiting Santa Claus at department stores are alive and well. But consumer behaviors have become more complicated. As we’ve noted on our blog, we’re turning holiday shopping into an on-demand experience. And because of our access to multiple devices and channels, we’re making holiday shopping an omnichannel one as well. Businesses that understand how to respect the traditions of the past while adapting to changing consumer behavior will win.
For more insight into the omnichannel consumer, check out our recently published The CMO’s Guide to Omnichannel Discovery. Contact us to discuss how we can help you improve your location marketing experience in the era of the omnichannel shopper.
This is the season of holiday shopping on demand. And both online and offline retailers are more prepared than ever, thanks to the impact of catalysts such as Amazon, Google, and Uber. How prepared are you?
The Digital Giants Speak
In recent months, we’ve seen online platforms ranging from Instagram to Pinterest launch functions such as buy buttons that make it easier to buy products during micro-moments of discovery, when consumers use their mobile phones to decide what to buy and where. Most recently, Facebook introduced new call-to-action buttons, including order food, request an appointment, and get a quote — allowing users to take action faster after they’ve found where they want to go or do.
Pinterest indicates that since the app launched a product discovery and shopping functionality, 55 percent of Pinterest users have used Pinterest for this purpose. Finding and shopping for products is the second most popular activity on Pinterest. Meanwhile, Amazon continues to modify its Echo device that shoppers can use to buy products and have them delivered to their homes via voice commands. The Echo Dot, which was released October 20 (just in time for holiday shopping), is a more affordable version of Echo that uses intelligent assistant Alexa to help consumers do everything from control their home devices to use on-demand services. Not to be outdone, on November 4, Google released its highly anticipated Echo competitor, Google Home, which offers the ability to have a more contextual, intelligent conversation (e.g., “Where’s the closest place I can see Rogue One and buy Star Wars LEGO watches, too?”).
And those examples constitute the tip of the iceberg.
Brick-and-Mortar Businesses Have Their Say
Smart brick-and-mortar merchants and their partners are taking matters into their own hands by launching their own on-demand services. To wit:
- Cole Haan and Nordstrom are among the name-brand businesses partnering with UberRUSH to offer same-day delivery of products directly to consumers’ doorsteps.
- Earlier in 2016, Walmart announced the launch of an in-house on-demand service that relies on ride-sharing companies such as Lyft and Uber to make it possible for customers to place orders online, designate a delivery window, and have their orders fulfilled and delivered.
- In August, SIM Partners rolled out an API that our clients can use to add a “Ride There with Uber” button to their location pages. The Ride There with Uber button makes it easier for shoppers to get to an offline destination, which is especially useful if they find something on a location page that they want to buy, prefer to go to the store for pick-up and perhaps additional browsing, and need a ride ASAP.
As we have noted on our blog, brick-and-mortar retailers need to act now in order to make sure that shoppers are aware of any on-demand services they offer. For instance, retailers should optimize the content on their location pages to promote their services, whether they consist of gift wrapping, delivery, or in-store pick-up for online orders. When consumers use their mobile phones, Echo, or Google Home devices to do a nearby search for Zootopia stuffies, retailers’ location pages should tell them not only that they have them in stock but whether they can wrap and deliver the toys. Retailers should also complement their organic content by investing in paid advertising, such as paid search, to promote their services.
If you lack on-demand services for your offline locations, consider acting with a partner such as SIM Partners that can help you scale quickly with functionality such as a Ride There with Uber button. If you already offer such services, make sure shoppers know about them as the holiday season approaches. Contact us — we’d love to discuss how we can help you.
Consumers long ago graduated from Google searches on desktops and mobile phones. They’re finding you through a multitude of channels and devices, an evolution of search known as omnichannel discovery. Consumers own, on average, four devices, according to Nielsen, and nearly 40 percent of U.S. businesses interact with consumers across five or more channels, according to Experian. Consumers can find and buy clothing on Pinterest and use their cars as search engines to find a cup of coffee. They expect brands to be where they are. They demand that brands provide a consistent experience, too — regardless of device or channel — which is what winning in a world of omnichannel discovery is all about.
To help businesses with multiple locations turn omnichannel discovery into in-store revenue, SIM Partners has published The CMO’s Guide to Omnichannel Discovery. This new ebook asserts that businesses can succeed with omnichannel consumers by leading them through a smooth journey across channels. Doing so means unleashing location data to ensure that your brand is findable everywhere an omnichannel consumer conducts a near me search — and then creating the “next moment.”
A next moment is the action that occurs after someone finds your brand through a search. For example, a next moment can consist of a brand sharing a mobile wallet offer or a scheduling widget optimized for desktop and mobile. The key is to create the next moment that maximizes the value of each channel and device. For instance, Pinterest users possess a stronger intent to purchase. A next moment on Pinterest that drives traffic to a brick-and-mortar store might consist of a promoted pin that showcases merchandise on sale in stores. But a next moment on Snapchat might consist of a completely different, more engaging experience that capitalizes on the playful attributes of the app.
What all these moments have in common is that they’re enabling a brand to respond to a consumer in on-demand fashion. Call the experience omnichannel on-demand.
How are you responding to the advent of omnichannel discovery on-demand world? Read The CMO’s Guide to Omnichannel Discovery and talk with us. We’d love to help you with your journey.
At SIM Partners, we’ve coined the term “data amplifier” to describe publishers and data aggregators that share a business’s location data where “near me” searches occur. My new Search Engine Land column shares why data amplifiers are critical.
In the column, I discuss the recent experience of a vendor that had pressured one of our clients to adopt a paid-inclusion model on a tier-two directory. Fortunately, the client did not take the bait.
My column contrasts the value that data amplifiers provide with the perils of paying to have one’s data managed directly on a tier-two directory. Check it out, and contact us to discuss how we can help you treat your location data like a strategic asset.
It’s shaping up to be a cheerful holiday season. The National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts that holiday sales will increase 3.6 percent, which is higher than the 10-year average of 2.5 percent. The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) predicts a 3.3 percent sales boost for brick-and-mortar stores. Retailers are expected to higher between 640,000 and 690,000 seasonal workers as they gear up for the spike in sales, according to the NRF. Preparing for the holiday season also means managing your seasonal content and location data so that consumers know where to find you, especially when they use their mobile phones to do a “near me” search for stores that are keeping holiday hours to accommodate their shopping needs. You can start now by scheduling an update to your store hours.
As the ICSC points out, 85 percent of consumers will search online before making an in-store purchase. According to the e-tailing group, the Number One way U.S. digital shoppers use their smartphones while holiday shopping is to look up store information such as hours and location. So you need to make it easier for consumers to find you when they do online research for what to buy and where to buy. Here are some steps you should be taking now to prepare:
- Update your store hours. Schedule an update to your store hours on all the location pages for your brick-and-mortar stores. Shoppers expect retailers to offer expanded hours of operation during the holidays, but those hours vary from store to store — and region to region if you operate hundreds and thousands of stores. Moreover, holiday hours can change as a specific holiday approaches, and special dates, such as Black Friday and Christmas Eve, might have unique hours that need to be managed. As we have discussed on our blog, Google makes it possible for businesses to use Google My Business to pre-schedule specific hours for holidays and events — a boon for anyone who manages brick-and-mortar operations. But updating store hours is more challenging for businesses that manage hundreds and thousands of locations. If you are one of those businesses, act now. Create a listing management plan that identifies how, when, and who will ensure that store hours are up to date. If you work with an outside partner (such as SIM Partners) to manage your location data, work together now to update your hours.
- Check your location data health. Updating your store hours won’t help you if you publish incorrect information about your address, which happens more often than you might expect. Do a gut check to make sure you are getting the basics right. Do all your location pages publish accurate name, address, and phone (NAP) data? Is your location information accurately listed on all the places where shoppers conduct near-me searches, such as Apple Maps, Google Maps, and Foursquare? Location data health requires monthly check-ups because business conditions change constantly. Stores get opened and closed, for instance.
- Get ready for the on-demand shopper. Make sure that shoppers are aware of any services you provide that make it easier for shoppers to get to your store — and for you to get products to them. In our on-demand economy, shoppers expect retailers to be more responsive than ever. The rise of services such as UberRUSH simplifies the process of delivering products from brick-and-mortar. If you offer any special services that make it easier to get holiday goodies into the hands of consumers, make sure you advertise those services clearly and prominently on your location pages as well as through paid advertising. For instance, SIM Partners clients can add a “Ride There with Uber” button to their location pages thanks to an API we rolled out in August. Get your content updated now to show that you can meet the needs of on-demand consumers
- Optimize your site content for mobile voice search. Increasingly, shoppers are relying on voice-activated searches to find what they need, especially while they are on the go. As Entrepreneur Derek Iwasiuk wrote recently, voice search requires businesses to optimize their content differently to be found. “Instead of focusing on short keyword searches, voice search makes it vital to consider longer questions,” he wrote. “Marketers need to find out how phone users are phrasing their queries and base their SEO campaigns around these questions.” You should ask what kind of voice queries your customers are going to make this holiday season (e.g., “Where can I find Sky Viper Streaming Drones on sale nearby?”) and make sure that you have optimized the content on your location pages to answer those questions.
A one-two punch that optimizes data and content will ensure that shoppers take two critical actions:
- Shoppers will find you because your data is accurate.
- Shoppers will buy from you because your contextual content convinces them to make a purchase.
Getting ready for the holiday season all starts with managing data such as your store hours. Are you ready? Contact us to discuss how we can help.
Image Credit: Search Engine Land
Local and organic ranking signals for brick-and-mortar business continue to merge, thanks to a new Google algorithm update nicknamed Possum. With the Possum update, Google is applying filters to reward certain businesses that are not only physically closest to searchers but that also are optimizing their location data and content for search far better than anyone else.
One of the interesting implications of Possum is that businesses need to work harder to optimize data and compelling content to attract customers locally. Big businesses won’t have an advantage because of their domain strength.
In my newly published Search Engine Land column, “Don’t Let Your Business Play Possum with Local Search,” I share more implications of Possum. Check it out and contact us to discuss how SIM Partners can help you improve your location marketing.